A Chef’s Guide to Eating Well in the North End
If you’ve spent time in Boston’s North End, you know the drill: relent and wait in the demoralizing line curling around Giacomo’s, stuff yourself into Mike’s Pastry and watch packing string whip around boxes of sugar-dusted cannoli, or have yourself a laugh and inquire about the wait time at Neptune Oyster.
But what if you could leave that to the gaggle of tourists buying up tri-corner hats and lobster trinkets?
“There are a lot of tourists in the North End, so there will always be that element,” says Tony Susi, the former chef of Olives, Sage, and Mamma Maria. “But there a handful of places that still do something creative and unique. It comes from a combination of people who grew up here, with restaurants that are over two generations old.”
Susi, now a restaurant consultant for Tavern Road, Pastoral, and several others, was born and raised in the North End. He can remember when the streets were lined with dozens of butcher shops, a time when the neighborhood housed Boston’s working class, unable to support a glut of restaurants like today. Over the last several years, Susi has witnessed an infusion of talent to help complement some of the lesser-known neighborhood gems.
Along with chef Dante de Magistris, of Il Casale and Restaurant Dante, the two longtime North End residents guided us through the labyrinthine streets from Prince Street Park until Commercial Street turns into Atlantic Avenue, in search of a better way to eat in the North End.
De Magistris: “Chef Owner Jose Duarte has a menu that stands out from all of the rest. His delicious mussels and marsala appetizer inspired my own interpretation of this dish for my menu at Il Casale Lexington. His cassava root gnocchi is one of the most interesting dishes to be found in the North End. The gnocchi is served in a slow braised Chicha de Jora green lamb ragu, offering the perfect amount of delicate spice. Duarte also serves a rotating preparation of Peruvian Amazone Paiche—something that you won’t find in many other restaurants. My favorite pasta dish is his Campanian fusilli, which is baked al cartoccio (in parchment paper). It honors the true Avellinesi spirit with onions, pancetta Abruzzese, roasted tomatoes, and smoked sweet peppers.”
Susi: “Jose Duarte is always experimenting, fusing Southern Italian cuisine with flavors from his Peruvian background. He’s a fun guy to talk to as well because he travels a lot and he uses all these funky ingredients. His Peruvian influence and style makes for a totally unique dining experience. ”
210 Hanover St., Boston; 617-720-0052 or tarantarist.com.
Susi: “Not only does Artu have a great bar staff, they have the most amazing porchetta sandwich with tender pork and marinated eggplant. It’s under the panini section of their lunch menu. Just trust me and order it. It’s always tasty.”
6 Prince St., Boston; 617-742-4336 or artuboston.com.
De Magistris: “When I come home from a late night working in the restaurant, I need to know that there will be something delicious waiting for me in the fridge. Thanks to Monica’s, my kitchen is always stocked with solid artisanal Italian products. The Mendoza brothers have a great eye for quality ingredients. There is nothing better than coming home and snacking on a few slices of heavenly prosciutto and sopressata.”
Susi: “The Mendoza brothers—there are actually three of them—recently renovated this market. I’ve known them since they came to Boston from Argentina in the early ’80s. They always have great salumi and cheeses, but they also bake their own breads, make pizzas, and have a wide range of prepared foods. Also, don’t miss out on their killer craft beer selection.”
130 Salem St., Boston; 617-742-4101 or monicasboston.com.
Susi: “I usually hit up Bread + Butter or Anthony’s on Commercial Street when I want iced coffee, but for hot coffee I always go to Café Pompeii. It’s a neighborhood classic. The line is always short and they carry a line of coffee, Guglielmo, that I think is particularly underrated.”
280 Hanover St., Boston; 617-227-1562
De Magistris: “With Ward 8, owner Nick Frattaroli has brought a much appreciated neighborhood hangout spot. The cocktails here are unique and innovative, and the food menu is a refreshing change from anything else you can find in the North End. After a long day in the kitchen, this is my go-to spot when I’m looking for a good drink, some late night fare, and the company of my neighbors. The simplicity of their flatbread with San Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella paired with a glass of wine is the perfect way to end any day.”
90 North Washington St., Boston; 617-823-4478 or ward8.com.
Susi: “A fixture on Hanover Street, Siobhan Carew always has warm Italian hospitality mixed with some tough Irish love. She cares about the product she serves. She doesn’t buy junk, and she won’t serve it either. Her classic stuff, like the linguine with clams, is just fantastic. But she always serves some great cheeses and parma prosciuttos as well.”
319 Hanover St., Boston; 617-367-4348
De Magistris: “Quattro is one of my favorite spots in the North End for lunch. The space is energetic and lively, and the open windows overlooking Hanover Street create a nice, comfortable atmosphere. Servers attend to packed tables with efficiency and flair, while bartenders like Marissa serve cold beer and crafty cocktails with sincerity and humor. This place does brick oven pizza the right way every time, which is no easy feat. Even when I head here in the mood for something light like the octopus salad, I almost always end up giving in and ordering one of their amazing Neapolitan-style pizzas as well. An added bonus is their handmade pasta and bread, courtesy of the Bricco Panetteria and DePasquale’s Homemade Pasta Shoppe.”
264 Hanover St., Boston; 617-720-0444 or quatro-boston.com.
Susi: “This is my new go-to place on Hanover Street. The Cacio e Pepe pizza is seriously delicious. They use three different kinds of cheeses and top it with a little olive oil and cracked black pepper. The sausage pie at Pizzeria Regina is still my favorite old-school pizza, but Locale’s Cacio e Pepe is my favorite Neapolitan-style pizza.”
352 Hanover St., Boston; 617-742-9600
De Magistris: “Aria is a fairly new addition to Hanover Street, and owner Massimo Tiberi is one of the most hospitable guys around. Every time you walk through the door, it feels like you’re entering his house for a great dinner party. In the summer, my favorite spot is the table for two right by the window overlooking Hanover Street. In the winter, I love sitting next to the fire. The rigatoni all Amatriciana—with caramelized onion, San Marzano tomato, and house-cured pancetta—is the perfect combination of sweet and salty. If I really feel like indulging, I order the Costata di Vitello, a 16 ounce, milk-fed veal rib chop.”
253 Hanover St., Boston; 617-742-1276 or arianorthend.com.
Sulmona Meat Market
Susi: “There are two owners, Frank and Domenic Susi. Frank is my cousin and Domenic is his dad. Well, they’re second cousins, so they’re technically both my cousins, I guess. It all goes back to Sulmona, where there’s about a thousand Susis in that town. Frank’s grandfather opened this place in the early ’60s, so he’s a third generation butcher. All their meat is cut and ground to-order. I always pick up some ground beef for burgers, a couple of steaks, and I never leave without some sausages. Sulmona’s sausages are incredible!”
32A Parmenter St., Boston; 617-742-2791 or sulmonameatmarket.com.
De Magistris: “Many tourists and visitors tend to only stay on Hanover Street during their time in the North End, but those that dare to take a few steps down Fleet Street will find a truly special treat at Prezza. Chef Anthony Caturano is the master of the wood grill, and his game dishes are unparalleled. When the weather cools down, his venison loin is always on my mind. Another must-try is his ravioli di uovo, a giant ravioli stuffed with ricotta and egg yolk. The ravioli is tossed with butter and sage, and it is pure simplicity and satisfaction. It’s the perfect spot to go if you want to pull out all the stops to impress someone.”
24 Fleet St., Boston; 617-227-1577 or prezza.com.
De Magistris: “There is almost always a line of devoted followers waiting to get into Neptune, and its beloved reputation is well-deserved. My first bite of the fried Ipswich clams never fails to bring back memories of countless family birthday celebrations spent at Neptune. The whole roasted Bronzino is a little piece of the Mediterranean right there in the North End, and their sardine special on Tuesdays has become a ritual in the neighborhood. Their Neptune Burger with fried oysters, garlic mayo, and relish gives a whole new meaning to the word ‘badass.’ My friend brought his two-year-old son here to try his first burger. The experience set the bar so ridiculously high that now, whenever the kid is craving a burger, he refuses to go anywhere else.”
63 Salem St., Boston; 617-742-3474 or neptuneoyster.com.
Susi: “Torri Crowel is good people. She’s doing something new and trying to give North End visitors a different dining experience. It’s a small place, with a good seasonal menu, that’s really charming. The old tin walls are still up, and sure, you still see that stuff a lot in the neighborhood, but it’s 60 years old. They’re maintaining the architecture and traditions of the North End while adding some nice new touches with the cuisine.”
351 Hanover St., Boston; 617-523-0003 or vollenolle.com.